Newbury Society Bulletin June 2023


An appeal has been lodged against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse development plans for the Kennet Centre in Newbury.

The plans are applications 21/00379/FULMAJ and 21/00380/FULMAJ, which involve demolishing most of the Kennet Centre and replacing it with a high-rise development which includes 367 flats, but no affordable housing.  They were refused by West Berkshire Council in November 2022, and now a public inquiry will be held to decide whether this decision should be overturned.

Comments (“submissions”) which were sent to West Berkshire Council in response to the planning applications will be passed on automatically to the planning inspector.  If you wish to make further comments, or modify/withdraw your previous representation(s), you can do so online at The deadline is 17th July and the reference APP/W0340/W/23/3321517 should be quoted on all correspondence.  

The appeal was lodged in May and announced on 14th June.  The inquiry itself is expected to begin on Tuesday 10th October, and to sit for five days.

The Newbury Society believes that what is required is a sensitive redevelopment of the Kennet Centre, but that is not the plan put forward by Lochailort.  “We are very disappointed that Lochailort has not listened to the people of Newbury, and are trying to push on with plans which are inappropriate for a market town of this nature,” said Society chair David Peacock.

The Newbury Society believes that the plans are wrong for Newbury, and is organising a petition against them.

B The 10-storey Block A at the heart of the Kennet Centre development

The 10-storey Block A at the heart of the proposed Kennet Centre development

Competition: Beauty and the Beast
The best and worst buildings from Newbury and its environs

A competition inviting people to nominate their best and worst buildings in and around Newbury was launched at The Society’s 50th anniversary celebration, held at Shaw House on Saturday 10th June.

Newbury Society chair David Peacock said “This is an opportunity to focus on the rich range of buildings in and around Newbury, with the launch of an appeal we call ‘Beauty and the Beast.’  Do you have a favourite Newbury building?  One you cherish?  Is there a building you really dislike?  One perhaps, which if it were demolished, would leave Newbury a better place?”

Send your nominations headed “Beauty and the Beast” to the email address  Additional contact details are available in this Bulletin – the deadline for entries is 22nd July.  Put your name and contact details on each nomination.  The Society will draw up a shortlist of Newbury’s best and worst buildings from the nominations, and the Newbury Weekly News has agreed to put these to a public vote.

The Newbury Society wants everyone to nominate TWO good buildings, and TWO bad buildings, with the reasons why they are good and bad.  If possible, photographs should be sent with each nomination.

Mr Peacock said “Please, do take part in this, and encourage other people to get involved as well.  Newbury has a rich architectural heritage.  Which buildings do you cherish, and which buildings do you dislike?  TWO of each, with reasons and photographs, to the Newbury Society, marked ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”

This is not restricted to the parish of Newbury, the area covered by the town council.  This is for Newbury and adjoining parishes (with the exception of Thatcham) i.e. Newbury, Enborne, Speen, Shaw-cum-Donnington and Greenham.

Dates for Your Diary – 2023

Talks are held in the Parish Room, St John’s Church, St John’s Road, Newbury RG14 7PY.

Admission is free for members or £2.50 for non-members. Visitors are most welcome.

Thursday 14th September, 7:30pm – Jane Burrell: Newbury Art and Artists

An illustrated talk which will look at the life and work of some local artists, as well as the depictions of local scenes by others. It will include fine and decorative art, with the emphasis on the former. Among the artists covered will be JMW Turner, Joseph Toomer (thrice Mayor of Newbury), William Gore, Fred Hall, Victor Corden, Christopher Hall and John Perkin.

Jane Burrell is a retired museum curator with interests in local history, Speen Church, Newbury Quakers, poetry of the Great War, the history of The Abbey School Reading, and the Inter-testamental period.

Thursday 12th October, 7:30pm – AGM + David Peacock: Newbury in 2023 

Newbury Society chairman David Peacock will be reviewing the past year; talking about Newbury today, some of its attractions, and the range of challenges it faces.

Thursday 9th November, 7:30pm – Dave Stubbs: Lord Falkland, his life, times, death and memorial

There must be many people in West Berkshire who pass the massive granite obelisk at the top of ‘Wash Hill’ and have little or no idea of its origins, the man it was named after or even any connection with the Falkland Islands.

Having become immersed in the story of the First Battle of Newbury after digging up a musket ball in his back garden, Dave Stubbs, long-time resident and erstwhile ‘local bobby’ for Wash Common has recently spent time looking at the fascinating character of Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, who he was, why as a politician he was even fighting in the battle and why his death is commemorated in one of the biggest English Civil War monuments – and how this became only the second property taken into custody of the fledgling National Trust in 1897.

The Society’s 50th Anniversary 

Half a century of The Newbury Society was celebrated at Shaw House on Saturday 10th June, when members and guests gathered to mark the anniversary. 

C:\Users\Graham\AppData\Local\Temp\A Newbury Society 50th members and guests 2023 June 10 RM.JPG
Photo courtesy of Richard Maynard (RM)

The current chair of the Society, David Peacock, reviewed the history of the Society over the past 50 years, beginning with a petition in 1973 which led to a public meeting in the town hall, and the creation of an organisation devoted to saving the town’s best features; combining the town’s existing fine buildings with first-class new ones.

A key role was played in that first year by Mrs Maureen Jobbins (born Maureen Smith), who started the petition and provided the focus for the group.  She became the Society’s first chairman and in spite of being increasingly ill through the year, she kept up her involvement until it was no longer possible; she died at the beginning of 1974.

Many people have made important contributions over the years, and although Dr Peacock acknowledged that he could not name them all, among the names mentioned were Hilary Hinchliffe, Peter Davies, Christopher Hall, Jack Donovan, Frances Berry, Ernest Paul, John Gould, Bob Willis, Gwynneth Bullock, Mike James, Jeremy and Elke Holden-Bell, and Anthony Pick.  Ernest Paul and Jeremy Holden-Bell scrutinised every planning application for Newbury and adjacent parishes over many years, and their comments helped to avoid some of the worst development proposals completely, and soften the effect of others.

C:\Users\Graham\AppData\Local\Temp\C Newbury Society 50th Guests incl DL WBC chmn + Nby Mayor 2023 June 10 RM.JPG

The Newbury Society has promoted the Arts, planted trees, organised garden parties, town walks and “Discover Newbury” Heritage Open Days, and has responded to many planning consultations.  It has run campaigns including those to save the Luker building on the Andover Road from demolition, and against the current development proposals for the Kennet Centre.

Guests at the event included the Deputy Lieutenant of Berkshire Richard Bennett (who is also chair of the Reading Civic Society), the chairman and leader of West Berkshire Council (Jeremy Cottam and Lee Dillon), and the mayor and leader of Newbury Town Council (Nigel Foot and Gary Norman) and their partners.  Jeremy Cottam spoke to acknowledge the important role played by civic societies such as The Newbury Society. 

Shaw House itself proved a model setting for the evening.  Committee member Chris Marriage was MC, with vice-president Garry Poulson reading out a message of support from the Society’s president, Lord Benyon, which emphasized the importance of heritage and a sense of place, and encourage Newbury to “continue to be constructively belligerent…”  He also thanked the guests for attending.  Committee members John Handy, Graham Smith and Mike Hood were closely involved in organising the event.

Dr Peacock said he wanted to thank all committee members, past and present, for their work over many years (with Dr Bryant and Mr Handy having served for over 25 years), and he paid a particular tribute to the work of long-serving Society secretary Graham Smith which had kept the Society going through difficult times. 

Lord Benyon’s Message for the 50th Anniversary Celebration

I am truly sorry not to be with you tonight. I have an event at my son’s school I cannot miss.

On a personal level, my many memories of how the Newbury Society is how it and its members kept me straight on issues affecting the Town when I was its MP. Those memories will always be with me.

We live in a time when the world is changing so quickly and when over my lifetime Newbury has changed beyond belief. So there has never been a more important moment when we need to be rooted in our heritage and reminded of what has made this corner of the South of England what it is. Our ancestors made this town through their hard work and their belief in beauty, and a sense of place. Those are values which we need in the years ahead if this community is to continue to thrive.

As we have seen in the last few days, politicians come and go (some even go and then come back!) but what endures is character. And the character of our town is best defended by civil society and those within organisations like the Newbury Society who understand the aesthetic and how heritage matters. This is part of what brings character to the Town. So whilst character is seen in the built heritage we need to protect, it is also manifest in the human character of those who understand our past and see its relevance for our future. Newburians have always shown one part of their character which should never be lost: a healthy belligerence! It was present in the attitude of the Town’s elders to both sides in the Civil War. It was present in the strength of the non-conformists who were such a force in the Town for centuries. And as politicians of all persuasions will attest, it may not be always welcome but it keeps us accountable and grounded.

So in looking to the next 50 years, I hope Newbury will continue to be constructively belligerent and make sure that residents, business people and visitors of the future know that this is a special community because we revere the best of our past but make sure that the values and character of what made Newbury what it is today are deeply relevant to tomorrow.

Congratulations on this 50th anniversary and I hope you all drink to the next 50 years.

Richard Benyon.